Diabetes is a silent epidemic in the United States. According to a 2022 CDC report, there are more than 37 million adults with diabetes and 96 million with prediabetes. The CDC reports that diabetes prevalence has “significantly increased” over the last 20 years. The most important steps we can take in getting this silent epidemic under control is understanding the symptoms and the essential role of high-quality primary care in preventing and managing diabetes.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. In healthy individuals, the pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that helps transfer the glucose from food into your cells to fuel your body. But in some cases, your body doesn’t produce insulin, doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t regulate glucose levels. The inability to control glucose levels leaves the sugar in your bloodstream, which causes numerous health problems.
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas does not produce insulin. We generally diagnose this condition in children or young adults. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin daily.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body’s ability to use and process glucose is impaired. Generally, your pancreas is not producing enough insulin with Type 2 diabetes. At the same time, your cells become resistant to insulin and don’t absorb sugar for fuel, leaving it in your blood. We see type 2 diagnoses at all ages, including in children. However, most people with Type 2 diabetes are middle-aged or older. According to the National Institutes of Health, 90 to 95 percent of adult diabetes cases are Type 2.
What Are The Symptoms of Diabetes?
According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes symptoms include:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Increased hunger
- Unintended weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Frequent infections
- Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
- Areas of dark skin in the armpits or neck.
What Are the Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes?
From genetics to lifestyle factors, several risk factors increase your likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. They include:
- Age: Type 2 diabetes is most common in people 45 years or older.
- Family history of diabetes
- Overweight and obesity
- Physical inactivity
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Pregnancy: the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes increases in people who experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy or gave birth to a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
- Diabetes impacts individuals of certain races and ethnicities at higher rates, including Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Asian people and Pacific Islanders.
How Can I Keep Diabetes from Getting Worse?
Diabetes can cause severe health problems– including heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, eye problems, foot problems, dental problems, and kidney disease– if not diagnosed and managed. Some of the steps you can take to keep your diabetes in check include:
- Losing weight,
- Healthy eating
- Increasing physical activity
- Medications as prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Maintaining regular checkups with your primary care provider to monitor and manage your condition, track weight and activity and prescribe and adjust medications as needed.
- Regular checkups with your primary care provider can also help you catch prediabetes and make lifestyle changes to prevent your condition from getting worse.
What Are Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes?
Working with your primary care provider, you can manage diabetes with lifestyle changes– including diet and exercise– and medications.
- Some patients with Type 2 diabetes need to take insulin, either by injections or an insulin pump. Long-acting insulin lowers glucose levels for up to 24 hours, while short-acting insulin can reduce blood sugar spikes during meals. Many patients take both forms.
- Oral medications can help patients manage diabetes using various approaches. Metformin is the most common oral medication for Type 2 diabetes. It belongs to a category of drugs called biguanides which combat insulin resistance and decrease the amount of glucose your liver makes. Metformin can also be prescribed for people with prediabetes. Other medications can regulate blood sugar by slowing the digestion of carbohydrates, boosting the production of hormones that lower blood sugar levels or stimulating the pancreas to release insulin. Every diabetes case is different, so it’s vital to have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which medication works best for you.
How Can My Primary Care Doctor Help Me Prevent and Manage Diabetes?
Working with a qualified medical professional to manage and monitor your diabetes is essential to staying healthy. Preventive care and routine checkups can help you prevent diabetes or get a handle on prediabetes before it progresses. If you get a diabetes diagnosis, working closely with your primary care physician can help you manage your condition.
At PrimaPatient, we understand that every patient’s experience with diabetes is different. Medications that work for some individuals don’t work for others. It’s an ongoing medical journey that requires regular monitoring and communication. Dr. Mamta Ojha of PrimaPatient specializes in internal medicine and managing chronic conditions. She provides focused care to understand and manage your symptoms and help you lead a healthy life with diabetes.